Washington is currently experiencing the largest wildfire the state has ever seen. Raging on for at least a week, the burn is still only about 60% contained.
Originally, Chief Deputy David Rodriguez of the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office approximated that about 150 homes had been burned to the ground. Now, as the fire has been cleared from Twisp and Winthrop, officials have confirmed that the count of homes have been lost is a great deal higher.
The estimate now is that the original number has been doubled. New reports state that roughly 300 homes have burned.
“You have to remember that we’ve got 800 miles of roadway for the whole fire footprint,” Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said about the significant difference between the actual count of burned homes and the original estimate.
The wildfire has burned over a quarter-million acres and caused one death so far.
Some people decided against evacuating their homes, worried about the possibility of looters. One man that stayed behind to protect his home appeared to have had a heart attack in the process. The name of the man has not been released to the public.
Earlier this week, the rain in Washington offered a lot of help to firefighters attempting to control the burn.
“As expected, the rains we had back on Thursday really did a lot to slow this part of the fire,” incident spokesman Alan Hoffmeister said. “The perception is that the fire looks pretty well taken care of. But we still have areas of heavy fuel continuing to burn.”
Officials worry, however, that the burn may get a lot worse before it gets better. The rain that helped control the wildfire could have also caused more problems for the weekend. Lightning that joined the rain might have started fires that could burn up once the temperature rises.
Since the weather forecast during this weekend states that temperatures could reach the triple digits and that humidity will drop, officials are getting prepared for the worst. Those kinds of conditions lead to a result of active fire behavior.
As of Saturday, the wind and temperature picked up and evidence of burn ups have been noted in plumes of smoke.
Parts of Washington have received a bit of reprieve from the burn, though. Some areas that lost electricity finally have lights again. Winthrop, Twisp and Pateros are among those affected. Officials are also going to be attempted to get through burned areas with food and water for those stuck in their homes and in need of aid.
[ Image courtesy of PNW News Blog ]